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Blackboard 1. Let A Rn be an open subset. A vector field on A is function

F~ : A Rn .

One obvious way to get a vector field is to take the gradient of a differentiable

function. If f : A R, then

f : A Rn ,

is a vector field.

Blackboard 2. A vector field F~ : A Rn is called a gradient (aka conservative) vector field if F~ = f for some differentiable function f : A R.

Example 3. Let

F~ : R3 {0} R3 ,

be the vector field

F~ (x, y, z) =

(x2

cx

cy

cz

+ 2

+ 2

k,

2

3/2

2

2

3/2

2

+ +z )

(x + y + z )

(x + y + z 2 )3/2

y2

f : R3 {0} R,

given by

f (x, y, z) =

c

.

(x2 + y 2 + z 2 )1/2

So F~ is a conservative vector field. Notice that if c < 0 then F~ models the gravitational force and f is the potential (note that unfortunately mathematicians and

physicists have different sign conventions for f ).

Proposition 4. If F~ is a conservative vector field and F~ is C 1 function, then

Fj

Fi

=

,

xj

xi

for all i and j between 1 and n.

Proof. If F~ is conservative, then we may find a differentiable function f : A Rn

such that

f

Fi =

.

xi

As Fi is C 1 for each i, it follows that f is C 2 . But then

Fi

2f

=

xj

xj xi

2f

xi xj

Fj

=

.

xi

=

Notice that (4) is a negative result; one can use it show that various vector fields

are not conservative.

1

Example 5. Let

F~ : R2 R2

given by

Then

F1

= 1

y

So F~ is not conservative.

Example 6. Let

F~ : R2 R2

and

F2

= 1 6= 1.

x

given by

Then

F2

= 1,

x

F1

=1

and

y

so F~ might be conservative. Lets try to find

f : R2 R

such that

f

f

=y

and

= x + y.

x

y

If we integrate the first equation with respect to x, then we get

f (x, y) = xy + g(y).

Note that g(y) is not just a constant but it is a function of y. There are two ways

to see this. One way, is to imagine that for every value of y, we have a separate

differential equation. If we integrate both sides, we get an arbitrary constant c. As

we vary y, c varies, so that c = g(y) is a function of y. On the other hand, if to

take the partial derivatives of g(y) with respect to x, then we get 0. Now we take

xy + g(y) and differentiate with respect to y, to get

x+y =

(xy + g(y))

dg

=x+

(y).

y

dy

So

g 0 (y) = y.

Integrating both sides with respect to y we get

g(y) = y 2 /2 + c.

It follows that

(xy + y 2 /2) = (y, x + y),

so that F~ is conservative.

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